Category Archives: New York Restaurants

Jean-Georges Nougatine

Sometimes, even as a lover of food, I forget why New York is great. It’s loud, its manic pace is constant, and as the weather gets warmer, the city gets smellier. I’m ready for a change. But then, out of the blue, I have a New York moment and I remember why there is no place like this place and how I will never be able to find another like her.

Jean-Georges with a Lady Who Lunches - a blurry camera picture because we were trying hard to be classy and discreet

When I sat down at a Jean-Georges restaurant near Central Park on Wednesday for lunch and Jean-Georges himself walked out of the kitchen, I felt like 13-year-old-Lauren would have felt if Jonathan Taylor Thomas had walked out of the kitchen. I’m not ashamed to say I got butterflies. He’s just that good.

Nougatine New York Magazine praises this little sun-filled restaurant at 1 Central Park West as “possibly the least heralded and most overlooked restaurant in town.” My good friend Becca invited me to lunch as payment for a cake I made her (seriously, does baking have its perks, or what?) and on the hottest day of an unseasonably warm April, we sat down for a posh meal where the dining room is run like a well-oiled machine and the Ladies Who Lunch throw birthday parties with Tiffany blue boxes as table favors.

On the menu:
Warm Beets and Rich Yogurt
field mache and lemon oil
Shrimp Salad
with avocado and tomato champagne vinegar dressing
Salt and Pepper Calamari
with citrus-chili dip
Roasted Red Snapper
with broccoli raab and sweet garlic-lemon broth
Pan Seared Beef Tenderloin
with miso butter and roasted brussel sprouts
Creme Caramel
with sacristan (puff pastry twisted and dipped in sugar) and citrus
Jean-Georges Warm Chocolate Cake
with vanilla bean ice cream
[the prix fixe meal allows you to choose 2 small plates plus a dessert for $26]

Salt and pepper calamari

Pan Seared Beef Tenderloin (blurry because I barely had time to snap this picture before I dove into the deliciousness)

Verdict: To. Die. For. “What’s in that, crack cocaine?” I wish I could say my dining partners and I said this only once. Everything was so delicious, warm, inviting. Each bite left all the right pleasant notes in my mouth. The portions were perfect, and I left the restaurant feeling sated and glowing. Forget the temperatures outside. I was radiating sunshine from inside. The prices at Nougatine are far more reasonable than any of Jean-Georges’ other restaurants in Manhattan, but it’s still not a cheap meal. I make it a point to seek out affordable, delicious meals in New York so believe me when I tell you this: if I had only $100 to spend on one final meal in New York City, I would take it to Nougatine.

Red Snapper

The famous Jean-Georges Chocolate Cake with vanilla bean ice cream

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Azul Skies Smiling at Me

New York has endless restaurants and it’s impossible to keep up with all of them. Restaurants open and close before you even get a chance to peep the menu, so while I try to eat at as many new places as I can, sometimes I cave and end up at old favorites. I’ve been to Azul on the Lower East Side of Manhattan multiple times (five that I can distinctly recall) and their $19.95 recession special can not be beat: small green salad, 8 oz. skirt steak (tender, juicy, and “holy hell” delicious), mashed or fried potatoes, and a glass of wine. Seriously. Are you on your way there now? You should be.

Azul Argentinian Restaurant Located at 152 Stanton Street (corner of Suffolk and Stanton). The bar serves beer and wine, and beware: vegetarians will NOT like this restaurant. The Argentines like their red meat. My kind of people.


On the menu:
Mixed grill for 2, medium rare (short ribs, lamb chops, skirt steak, chorizo, blood sausage, sweetbreads), with mashed potatoes and salad
Quilmes beer
Malbec ’08 Reserva, Finca Flichman
Vanilla bean panna cotta

I don’t really have to do a Verdict here, do I? I love this restaurant. It was warm out, the doors were open onto the street, pre-smelly-summer breeze was blowing, I had a glass of Malbec in my hand… What was I talking about?

Right. The food.

I have to admit I’m not a fan of blood sausage, but everything else was just as it should be. The skirt steak was seared on the outside, juicy and tender on the inside. The chorizo was spiced perfectly and the short ribs had the distinct, salty, beautiful flavor I had hoped for. This was my first foray into sweetbreads and I have to tell you: tastes like chicken.

Oh, and the vanilla bean panna cotta with blueberries? Custard is never my first choice for dessert but this was just what I wanted after the heavy mixed grill: smooth, firm consistency with a light vanilla bean flavor that melted in my mouth. Thanks for dinner, Azul! See you in a couple weeks.

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Food Cart Friday!

In my opinion, and from what I’ve read online and in newspapers, New York is behind in the food cart trend. Sure, we have lots of halal food, cupcakes, falafel, and chicken and rice, but where is our creme brulee cart? Our bacon dog cart? Our gumbo cart? All in due time, I’m sure. For now, I’ve done a little research into the tastiest midtown food cart options in Manhattan. And no better day than Friday to treat myself to a little fried fish and some cookies.

Kim’s Aunt Kitchen Cart: 46th Street between 5th Avenue and 6th Avenue (closer to 6th Ave, south side of the street) I decided to try Kim’s Aunt because most websites claimed that the fish was fresh and made to order, quelling two of my food cart fears. Who wants to eat food that’s been sitting in a grease pit for hours? Not this girl.

On the menu:
Flounder sandwich (fried flounder pieces, tomato, lettuce and white sauce on standard white bread)

Verdict: YUM. Oh, beautiful fried fruit of the sea. While the bread got soggy in the ten minute walk from the cart to my warm little office, I barely even noticed. The coating on the huge chunks of fish was crispy, the flounder inside was flaky and tender, and the veggies were crisp and fresh. You can’t get much in midtown Manhattan for $4.50 but this sandwich will fill you up and keep you full straight through the 3:00 office slump. Props to you, Kim’s Aunt, whoever you are.

Treats Truck: in some sort of sneaky PR move, or perhaps just to keep the population of midtown from gaining a collective five pounds, the Treats Truck moves! Their schedule can be found on their website, but for the past few Fridays they’ve been stationed on 45th Street and 6th Avenue from 12:30 – 3. Uh… or so I hear.

On the menu:
Double chocolate sandwich cookie with mint chocolate filling
Chocolate chip cookie
Vanilla sandwich cookie with vanilla filling
Double chocolate sandwich cookie with chocolate fudge filling
Double chocolate sandwich cookie with peanut butter filling
NOTE: I did not eat all of these cookies in one sitting, nor did I buy them all on one day. And this was strictly for research purposes. It’s a tough job reviewing cookies. Honest.

Verdict: Why hello there, brand new love of my life. This is my kind of cookie. The chocolate sandwich cookies had the PERFECT consistency: crisp on the edges, chewy in the middle. The vanilla sandwich cookie had a crispy texture all the way through, which is not MY favorite, but I’m sure some would disagree with me. And the chocolate chip was standard fare but delicious none the less. As you can probably tell… I recommend the chocolate sandwich cookies. And anything with frosting is alright with me.

If you have a New York food cart recommendation, lay it on me! Is there a creme brulee cart that I’m missing? Maybe it’s best if I don’t know about that one.

*top picture c/o Serious Eats

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Where’s the Beef? Oh… there it is.

I’m a simple girl. It doesn’t take much to make me happy. A beautiful sunset. The wag of a puppy’s tail. Red soled Christian Louboutins filled with Cartier diamonds hand delivered to the front door of my mansion in the Irish countryside by a newly single Johnny Depp. Okay, that last one’s negotiable. I would accept Cillian Murphy, as well.

But really and truly, I love simple, delicious food. And what is simpler and more delicious than a burger and fries? Not much, my friends. Not much.

My native-California friend Selina told me about a burger place in my Astoria neighborhood that supposedly rivals In-N-Out. Famished after a ballet class (yes, some dancers do eat), we trekked over to Petey’s Burger for deliciousness on a bun.

On the menu:
Cheeseburger
French fries
Coke
(AKA the cheeseburger combo #2)

Verdict: HELLO NEW FRIEND. These burgers are really… really… good. Really. As you can see in the picture, these are relatively thin beef patties topped with your standard tomato, onion, lettuce, ketchup, special sauce (which is probably mayo and ketchup mixed together), and cheese on a basic bun. I think the key is in the proportions, the stand-out flavor of the beef, and the crispy-crunchiness of the fresh lettuce and onion. I also have to give Petey’s major props for essentially replicating McDonald’s perfect, golden French fries. The meal wasn’t super greasy but it definitely hit the “I need some junk food in my belly now” spot. Too bad they deliver. There goes my waistline.

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Dolla Dolla Bill, Y’all

New York is one of the most expensive cities in the world. And my paycheck is sickeningly small. But every once in awhile, God smiles down upon me and offers up His greatest bounty (food, that is) for just a buck. There is dollar pizza on St. Mark’s Place. Dollar drafts on Mondays at Third and Long. And while you may end up splurging on everything from bacon wrapped dates to crispy calamari while you’re there, there are dollar oysters at Lure.

On the Menu:
Raw oysters
Raw clams
Lobster croutons
Crab cakes

Look at those beauties. Hello, little friends.

Verdict: If you are hell bent on making it a cheap night, then pay attention: this place is great for the raw oysters and clams and the house wine (which will set you back $6 a glass). If you venture outside of this bar menu, you’re looking at a hefty bill. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed myself and the slurpy little creatures on the half shell. And for a buck a piece, you can’t go wrong.

For a comprehensive look at dollar oysters in the city, check out My Salty Sweet.

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John DeLucie is Hungry

Tuesday night I attended a roundtable discussion at NYU with John DeLucie, co-owner of The Waverly Inn. DeLucie graciously gave up over two hours of his time to sit with a room of about thirty NYU students and alums to talk about how he got into food, his path through the gauntlet of New York City restaurants, and finally what it’s like to own one of the most sought-after restaurants in the country. “Brangelina hasn’t showed up yet,” he quipped. While the DeLucie discussion definitely stirred the “I want to be in food” feelings in me, it also taught me a couple things.

  1. Restaurants are the only businesses in the world where your boss can spit on you and burn you. And you just have to take it.
  2. Graydon Carter is another co-owner of The Waverly Inn and because of this, if you’re on the cover of VF, you get a meal at the WI. Sometimes I think my chances are better at being on the cover than getting a rez…
  3. “Food can change the world.” Apparently this had to do with sustainability, global warming, etcetera, etcetera… I like to believe he meant that if we all ate cupcakes daily we’d be a much happier planet.
  4. Servers at The Waverly Inn sign confidentiality agreements. The way he described the business actually gave me a greater respect for a bourgie, exclusive, celebs-only kind of place.
  5. John DeLucie thinks food blogs are dumb and diminish the effect that real food critics actually have on the masses. I thought that was… well… lame.
  6. Will Smith once asked a server at The Waverly Inn to sit down and join him. While this was frowned upon, let’s recap: homeboy sat down with the Fresh Prince and that is awesome.
  7. They are accepting applications.

Also check out John DeLucie’s book, The Hunger.

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We Need a Holiday

Dear New York Magazine,
Thanks for telling me The Mermaid Oyster Bar was open for lunch when it’s not. I had my little heart set on a lobster roll. Seeing the stools still perched on top of the tables at 2PM yesterday was not fun. Not. Fun. But I ate at Jane instead and I got the Big Pot of Mussels and all was right with the world. You are forgiven. This time…
Love always,
Lauren E.

On the Menu:
Big Pot of Mussels with rosemary fries
Steak salad
Pumpkin ravioli with a side of green beans with almonds

Sometimes I’m embarrassed when I get a huge steaming plate (i.e. sizzling fajitas) but there is nothing embarrassing about beautiful mussels. Pretty sure I was the envy of everyone in the place.

Hello lovelies…

This ravioli was delicious. The filling wasn’t sweet at all, but almost a little nutty with a brown butter sauce that was perfectly sweet but not overbearing. Dear Kerri has a serious hatred for anything cheesy and buttery (yeah… I don’t really get it either) but she loved this dish. Good, simple food. I will take it.

A “salad” topped with fried potatoes and goat cheese? I will take that, as well.

Verdict: While I am still jonesing for a lobster roll and oysters from The Mermaid Oyster Bar, Jane did not disappoint for a President’s Day brunch. I left fat and happy. Ain’t nothin’ wrong with that.

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